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|All Coons Look Alike to Me (1902)||
Subject: Earlier versions of this
My family inherited a nickelodeon from my grandfather, who ran, among other things, a house of ill repute. It contained 21 metal discs, of which this was one. In that format, the tune is just as lively and fresh as if written a few years ago. It obviously had widespread popularity. As music sans lyrics, it is still excellent stuff.
Silas Kessler -
Subject: Disgusting yet important.
I am a caucasian 17 year old, and am in no way racist, yet had to hear this song for it's historical value. What happened to african americans back then was terrible, but it doesn't mean it should be swept under the rug and ignored. That's what history is. Learning from our mistakes. So instead of being offended that this song is posted on this website, see it as a chance to see how unbelievably ignorant people were in the day, and how far we've come from then. Granted there's still work to be done but we're getting there. If we chose to be ignorant and censor these out-dated publications, we'd have no recorded mistakes to learn from.
Subject: Here's my take on it
As an African American I say this song should be in the Archives. For a number of reasons but here is the most important: Ernest Hogan (a BLACK man), took the song (he didn't write it), substituted lyrics (coon for pimp), made a few other changes and recorded it. This song made popular what was known as 'coon' songs and generated many other like songs. Although race relations have come a long way in this country, Mr. Hogan did what black rappers have done in our time...take an offensive word (in modern day, the 'n' word) and made it popular. We should keep this song as historical value and to show that there are still some African Americans who will do anything for a buck.
Subject: Good quality
Great sound from such an old recording. not my cup of tea but interesting and fun to time travel with. Hope the don't supress these type of songs.
People who justify this song are nothing but a bunch of "good ol' boys". You make me sick!
Audio quality is pretty decent considering time frame and technology available at that time. We must preserve these old time gems.
Subject: There ain't nothing sensitive about bigotry
For those who believe that this song is OK then so be it. But this song was Wrong, of course it was ok for the time that it was made. Racist songs like this was a commonplace at the turn of the 20th century. It is history I do agree with that, but it's the wrong kind of history, simply as that. I'm not being sensitive either, I'm just stating my opinion. I'm not going to condemn anyone who likes it, but man oh man some people act like a pack of wolves and jump on other people when somebody writes a review that they don't like Lol.
Subject: Undies in a Bunch
I thought the audio quality was darn good for 1902 . Now that's going back a few years ( 108 years as of this date ).
I did not like the song b/c I just didn't . It still had a bunch of vaudeville in the mix , and I do not like that style . Some of the banjo licks I can't place a style on , maybe my study of music of this time period is still woeful .
Why do people feel the need to justify or condemn this song ? Talk about importing your 2010 cultural values onto a piece of art finished so long ago .
The only aspect of this that I do have a reaction to is the sanitizers ( in their own minds ) of history . Who the heck are you to tell me what speech I may or may not access ? You are the type of people who really frighten me . If your sensibilities are easily bruised then don't access what may potentially bruise them . Live a bubble-wrapped life . Don't expect me to comply in any way . Of course then , sanitizers , your only way to " clean " history is through coercion . We have plenty of 20th century examples of that .
Subject: comment on all such things
People, people. The song, and many similar, is a piece of history, and interesting in part because of its casual racism. Why would you want to eliminate pieces of history? So we can be ignorant of it?
It is both a valuable recording and a racist one. Why is that so difficult? I believe it was Fitzgerald who wrote that the mark of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. It is a useful notion. Interesting banjo too.
Subject: Jesus F Christ
Now I have to worry about my imaginary immortal soul because some religious kook has cursed anything over 2 stars. This is satire. You know, the method with which we take the first steps to eliminate the problems that are difficult to approach. Try David Allen Coe on Nothing Sacred.
Subject: The people who justify this song are INGRATES
No lie, you should be ashamed of your damn selves for justifying this song. Who in the hell cares about going all out and explaining the definition of "racism" huh Anonomy? Coon is a racially discriminated word towards African Americans, there is no definition that can dispute that. Case closed, May God have mercy on every one's soul who gave this piece of shit anything over 1 star.
Anonomy The Great -
I've read these reviews here and it is almost laughable. Everyone is going back and forth about anything from racism to history to right and wrong to etc. etc. etc.. Perhaps when discussing these types of things you might want to remember that yes the song is perhaps racist and probably for our time as well. But there are so many hypocrites these days. They will talk about how wrong and racist a song like this is then listen to music that is much the same. Websters defines racism as, a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race or racial prejudice or discrimination. Now let's look at the word race. Websters defines race as, a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits or a family, tribe, people, or a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics. I say all this to show that racism includes all of the human RACE. So racism can include each of us individually. So let's look at some RAP music. I listened to a few songs the other day that my 25 year old son listens to. In that I heard women referred to as whore's, c..ts, bi..hes, and other words just too profane to list. Also I heard how these men singing had these women doing things that are also too profane to list and that was all in just one of the songs the other songs, by various so called artists, were just as bad if not worse. I heard in their voices all kinds of hate and degradation of women which in terms of Websters would also be racism or hate crime. I also watched a video, by and African American comedian, the same kind of verbal slang. I think when we talk about these kinds of issues we need to watch ourselves as we can be considered above all hypocrites and all we may say can mean nothing. I am an African American and I for one have stopped crying over what was done to us over 100 years ago. We all need to study history to find as was said to correct mistakes made. One mistake I found and was interesting was that our African brothers were the ones who sold our ancestors into slavery. So there enough blame to go around even to our own. If someone wants look into the beginning of slavery just let me know. We were treated just as badly by our own kind as we were treated when arriving in the USA. Besides why cry over spilled milk now. Forgiveness is the way to freedom overall.
Subject: great song.
man i so do remember this song yeah i was friends with collins & ossman they made a great team for two he he great song RIP you guys
also two everyone elese who cares if this is racist today the 21st century SUCKS & most of the music from this era & evan from before has a lot of class & Stylie while today all we do is say YO witch is Sick & i think The blackmen are punishing us whites cause we cant say coon or nigger today & they can but ive heard a few whites talk like that today so yeah just want too point that out okay
Subject: History is what it is: a mirror, distant, yet close
The song is of its era.
It is not hateful; I think we all agree about that.
"Coon" was, then, not so terrible a word as it seems today. The "n" word, terrible, is still in daily use, even by Black people of perfectly good intent; it is a "bad" word, yes, for, outside of its community it can be, not a term of "endearment", but an epithet of destructive hate.
Another song of the general period, a bantering song, has one "black" man say to his joshing peer,
who is "Well, I'm living on the interest....of what I =owe=!
"Damn nigger, then you never will die!"
===Change gears now? I am a writer and poet.
Here his me, my words, my voice, and it is derived from 1902's "The Ragman", national hit.
But, I feel the reality, even from a century and more distance, this is the mirror effect on this white-bread, empathetic person. I am not Black. I cannot possibly know what it is to go through life "marked" as they were then, and also, today.
Hear, please, read reid?
I am Reid Welch, amateur poet and writer.
I hope you can cry too.
"A Vanished Calling"
First comment, myself, "Reid recites it".
Click. I cry so easily.
I love Black people so much.
So I forgive the past, for the past is done.
Nothing remains but audible echoes of what NOT to do to people.
Something will always be offensive to someone, it is impossible to live without one type of person, whether it be by race, sexuality, sex, or religiion, being offended.
This song actually did offend most black people back in the 1890's while most white people loved it.
Ernest Hogan did regret it to his dying day that he used the word "coon" in his song.
I think music back then was great. The music back then had more passion and meaning in one song then most popular musicians can get out of an album.
Now everyone is so worried about being offensive that music is sensored..and not only music but everything.
Now everything has to be equal, making it not equal at all. We like to think we aren't racist but everyone is.. commercials can't be all white or all black, work places can't be, nothing can be. As long as we are still pick and chosing people for their color it is still racist.
Fear is still a part of our world today but it isn't spoken of.. Are we really supposed to be pretend that racism is done and over with? Its bull.
I bet people that are soo against racism will still use the words "I'm not racist, I have black friends." That is such a stupid thing to say.
This song is a classic. Nothing should be erased from history, not a thing. I thought everyone would know by now that we learn history so we don't repeat it. But in this case I think it should repeat itself. I wish I could hear a song in my lifetime that would provoke such controversy as this song did.
So yeah..relax was my point.
Subject: What have we learned
Isn't it time we gave our bowels a break. Why do people give themselves the liberty to be indignant now about something created in a place and time that cannot be undone? I imagine the only ethnic group to not suffer from bigotry was the Anglo- P's; every other subsequent immigrant to the US of A has had to suffer insults, beatings, murders, etc. Paddies, Frogs, Krauts, Japs, Chinks; and still we have no tolerance for those who were born into a mortal body not of their choosing. It is only a song and there is a lesson in it if we care to learn it; yesterday can be dead and gone. Today is a chance to realize tomorrow is forever - "Teach Your Children Well."
Subject: Let's erase history
I want all the Irish drunk jokes erased.
No more gay jokes, well that's coming soon enough for real.
The music mostly sucked during this era, black or white. They refused to use electric guitars and drum machines, that's mighty white of them.
Even though I don't share the love for this music or the message or the time, wanting to eliminate history is awfully orwellian and typical of the double standards inflicting our "progressive" and "enlightened" of today.
We should pull mein kampf from the libraries, and make other historical revisions, much like the soviets did with Marx's anti russian writings. So that no one is offended, except the majority, which should be slaughtered, everyone knows that...
For anyone to suggest destroying any kind of recorded sound or other historical item, I would suggest decaptiation if possible. I take this personally. Like the taliban blowing up those blashemous statues, you stand poised to correct your version of the past. Great!
Get over the past (it stopped being the present long ago).
What will be next? What will become unacceptable or politically incorrect? Who gets to choose what is remembered and what is forgotten. What happened to the progressive motif of repeating history/forgetting your past in it's various incarnations?
Looks like the trendy, self loathing and chronicly entitled like to pick and choose what parts of what they want to use and discard the reest. Throwing the post natal fetus out with the bathing liquid so to day.
Freedom of speech, unless it's something you don't want to hear... simply amazing. Sad, but amazing.
Lucas Gonze -
Subject: hottest recording of its time
The Vess Ossman banjo breaks on this are incredibly raw and wild for their time. I haven't heard anything comparable before James Reese Europe's recordings in 1914.
About the title, it was originally "All Pimps Look Alike To Me." Hogan tweaked it from "pimps" to "coons" because "coon" was socially acceptable while "pimp" was a dirty word. Needless to say this was a commercial decision, and he did make bank on it.
You can't judge their racism by our standards. Lynching was at its historical peak, and at the same time things were getting better for blacks for the first time since slavery began in the 17th century. The fact that this was a black songwriter working independently and succeeding is remarkable.
Even Scott Joplin -- the author of both the high opera "Treemonisha" and the coon song "I Am Thinking of My Pickaninny days" -- pandered like this.
Subject: CENSORSHIP IS EVIL....YES, BUT...
I'm not sure that even Collins and Ossman would want this thing preserved for the sake of posterity. Even the title is misleading. If they were actually refrring to the animal known as a Raccoon I would have to admit there IS a strong superficial resemblance from one to another. But I suffer from the handicap of not BEING a raccoon.
But as a human being I've heard too much garbage like this talked in my time to allow it to pass without comment (let alone to find it amusing).
This song was released in 1902...well, by 1902 Heavyweight Boxer Jack Johnson had won 50 fights against both white and black opponents. You want to maintain that these performers couldn't tell him from Tom, the railway porter? I'm willing to bet they could've spotted "the Galveston Giant" (as Johnson was often called) ANYWHERE.
And another thing...I noticed one reviewer indicating they considered the title to be true "just politically incorrect to say". Oh, really? You wouldn't be able to tell the difference between, say, Wesley Snipes, and Al, the cab driver?
About the song itself...yes, I think we should always remember that there was a time when songs like this were both written and performed and audiences laughed. I'm just not sure we need to save the actual recordings.
Just a note about "The Jazz Singer". It is not a portrait of an black performer---it is Al Jolson (who often performed in black face for the freedom it gave not to have to act or sing like some stuffy white guy) and it is deservedly a classic. "Birth of a Nation" is pure racism.
Subject: Black actors, White messages
I love how bigots justify their bigotry.
The last reviewer spoke, in his attempts to support a denigrating film, of "coon songs" and how they were a natural part of the happy negro of the past, and how they may indeed, if gangsta rap be believed, be a part of the happy negro of today.
"Oh, all is right with the world"... pretty much is his conclusion to justify destructive stereotypes types past and present.
I'm being a little facetious, but not much.
My conclusion though is a little different.
My conclusion is the step&fetchit actors of yesterday (often very educated men and women) did it because those are the roles Hollywood wanted to see, and those are the roles they could get paid for doing and those are the films they could get approved and distributed.
It was very much, with few exceptions (the great Oscar Micheaux comes to mind, and even he had his best films cut to ribbons or outright destroyed) a market (from financing to censorship to theatrical approval) of institutionalized racism, of Black actors yes, but at the whims of White messages.
Same thing happens today. Spoken Word and Rap was a positive thing, coming out of the 60s, with voices like THE LAST POETS and GIL SCOTT HERON. But what happens is the SONYS and TIME WARNERS see money to be made and monopolize the picture.
And suddenly the artists who are getting the record deals aren't the ones doing the pro-community raps, but suddenly you have the suits promoting this Gangsta Rap to the exclusion of everything else.
Ignorant kids, who don't know any better, hired to perpetuate ignorance. To be the step&fetchits of a brand new day. That when you look at it... doesn't look too new.
"We'll give you a record deal, but you have to be more gangsta. And toss in a lot of Niggas and Hos".
Black Actors, White Messages.
This marketing/manipulation of Black images extends even to the movies and tv of today.
Halle Berry And Denzel Washington are gifted actors. But they don't get academy awards for being gifted actors. Halle Berry gets an Academy award for playing a hor and Washington for playing a dirty, crazed, thug cop.
Really? All their performances and that's the one that's "black enough for you' that is award winning?
Black actors, White messages.
Contrary to the last review, because you see it in a film, or hear it in a song, doesn't make it a historical document of the time, doesn't make it the truth of a people, but rather it is the lie of the medium.
It is the voice of racism, the voice of apologists for institutionalized prejudice, and sadly the voice of reviewers even on this board.
It is an old tired voice, that promotes BIRTH OF A NATION as the silent film of note, and determines THE JAZZ SINGER will be our first sound film.
The history of Hollywood, is the history of a medium obsessed with promoting negative images of color.
That is not even open to debate. It's an oft-repeated fact, extending even to today. And it perpetuates because of people like some of these reviewers.
And you can always tell one of these people because they love to use the term of political correctness, and everytime you hear or see that word from them... "uhh I'm sick of all this political correctness when it comes to" just replace the word with "decency" or "respect" and that's really what they are griping against.
Try it, it really does work.
And it's laughable. People angry or derisive about having to act with decency and with respect to other people.
So no this film isn't a historical document, it's not a cinematic treasure, it is the product of a bigoted time, and at best should be a cautionary tale for all people of color, to be wary of those who would use you poorly.
"Black actors, White messages." A slogan that is long past its expiration date. So let's help retire it, permanently.
Subject: fantastic clip
Wonderful audio, good quality! This clip, judging by the comments, is misunderstood both in content and purpose for archiving.
The content 'all coons look alike to me' is about a BLACK woman who is replacing her BLACK lover/husband with someone she feels is better and saying the phrase humourously, sarcastically, a parthian shot. She says, 'I don't like you no how, all coons look alike to me' in a pretty early version of women's lib stance, in that one man is pretty much the same as another, so she'll take the one who spends his money on her.
That makes it social comedy on several levels when originally released and one reviewer is correct that 'coon songs' were a category of pop music as concrete and popular as bluegrass or hip-hop.
The audio is excellent despite what one reviewer wrote (what on earth are they comparing it to, my father is one of the country's largest private collectors and I grew up listening to 78s, this is very good and the lyrics are quite clear...pretty catchy tune, too) and the song is well worth archiving.
While it does represent (or match, anyhow) what were then overtly stated white views of blacks, it also represents general views of blacks in all shades of culture and it's no surprise a black man wrote it. That doesn't make him stupid, an Uncle Tom or self-hating, it just makes him the writer of a popular song that surely made a lot of people smile.
A reviewer mistunderstood another's comment, thinking they were saying that it was true but politically incorrect to say 'all coons look alike to me'.
Now, leaving aside the fact that this song has a black woman saying that, the person didn't write that at all, only that overt bigotry had gone out of fashion...and I agree. Overt is out of fashion, one doesn't run into it that often, but the bigotry is still there, of course.
So, no, you don't hear 'nigga' and 'coon' in common speech these days, at least not without quotation marks and an explanation, but the past would be misrepresented were we to pretend that was always the case. Like Holocaust survivors, I think that MEMORIES are cultural property and essential in knowing who and where we are...and how we got here.
As an aside, I'd say the fact that you do hear 'nigga' on a lot of chav/gangsta rap might indicate that 'coon songs' haven't disappeared, they may have just changed their stripes a bit.
Subject: The composer was an African-American
Ernest Hogan, who wrote this song was an African-American. According to the wikipedia article, in his later years, he regretted using the derogatory term.
Subject: pejurative term
I don't know how black folk felt about the name "coon" but it was common. In the Sears catalogue of 1908, there are lists of records that would include descriptions like "coon song" or "coon love song"
Mickey Mephistopheles -
Subject: The First Rock 'N Roll Record?
Relatively good sound quality. Hot banjo action from "Plunks" Ossman. (Standard disclaimers regarding period racism and Jim Crow culture apply, etc. etc.)
Dave Wondrich writing for WFMU Radio's late zine _LCD_ in 2000 describes this recording as the first rock 'n roll record. You can see an article all about this recording at http://www.wfmu.org/LCD/25/firstrock1.html
Subject: uninhibated not that funny racism
This novelty song is uninhibated yet not that funny racism. The song title is the best part. The quality is so low hard to understand.
But to realize this white unspoken aside survived from then to the 1960s (til now?) is just fascinating.
It is the openness that marks the change in time.
It just became socially incorrect to say out loud in polite society.